As I drive to and from CFC every day, I can’t help but notice people jogging/running. It’s certainly a good thing that they are exercising and getting fresh air, but the bad thing is, they don’t look very fit. Don’t get me wrong, I applaud their effort and their intention; it’s just I think they are not being smart about what they are trying to do. They either want to be fit and healthy, and/or they want to lose weight. And, they think this is perfect, because of the money they are saving – all they need are a pair of good running shoes.
Problem is, running will get them some results, but with a price. When they plateau (which they will), they will either quit out of frustration, boredom or injury, or they will likely try to increase the frequency and/or distance, which will get them to an over-use injury even faster.
I used to run regularly, training every year for the New Haven Labor Day Road Race (20K, which is 12.4 miles). Of course this is what every exercise enthusiast did back then, along with the pre-race day Pasta dinner (when the conventional wisdom was to gorge on carbs as part of a
training program so that one wouldn’t “bonk” — or gas out — before the finish line). And we now know how flawed that wisdom is now!
Same deal with running as your primary method of exercise. The runners who come to CFC usually don’t last. My theory is once out of their comfort zone, they don’t like not being good at what they do. So they quit and go back to the only thing they know: running.
The runners who come in here, from my observations, have poor flexibility and very limited range of motion. Once taken past their range of motion (which is their running stride), they are frustrated. Tight hamstrings are no fun. Almost every one of them is nursing some over training injury: bad backs, shin splints, sore knees, plantar fasciitis, etc. To compound the problem, when asked to do anything involving
upper body strength, their weakness is again exposed. Unable to engage their core and open their hips, they are chagrined at their efforts and poor performance. Even more embarrassing for them is when they are asked to row or jump rope. Again, because they consider themselves endurance athletes, they believe they will excel. When they realize they are not a whole lot better once taken out of the narrow environment of running, their ego is damaged. Most leave.
They want to go back to what they feel they are good at, which is natural. Unfortunately, they will never progress in their fitness level. It is like someone who learns one song on a musical instrument. They may play that one song very well, and they will surely play it often. Being able to exercise well in one domain and thinking you are a fit athlete is like being able to play only one song and thinking you are a
Bone density increase? Lift weight.
Burn more calories over a longer period of time? Lift weight.
Improve your build and figure? Lift weight.
Increase lean muscle mass? Lift weight.
Go to a local road race, preferably a 10K or longer, and take a look at the top finishers above the age of 30. Look at their posture, watch them walk, study their faces, examine their builds. You will not be impressed. Most look aged and weathered, have thin arms, sunken chests and rounded shoulders, and tend to limp or shuffle when they walk. This is elite health and fitness? And if you think you have to log a lot of miles to get ready for that long run you have always had you heart set on, follow this link: http://journal.crossfit.com/2009/02/training-2-miles-to-run-100.tpl.
It turns conventional wisdom upside down and makes a compelling argument for the superiority of CrossFit training.
Post Script: Since writing this, two CFC members shared recent personal stories that I would like to pass on.
One of our members (early 50s) told me she used to run regularly and traditionally enters several local road races every year. Since starting her CrossFit training here (member since January of 2009), she runs occasionally now, but does the WODs regularly. Her last 5K race gave resulted in her best time ever — and this was after coming off of a nasty cold and running in heavy rain. Anyone who is middle age or older can appreciate how hard it is to not watch our running times inch higher every year — to be able to get our best time ever is nothing short of miraculous!
Another CFC member (early 40s) related to me that one of his buddies — at the last minute — invited him to join him at the recent Litchfield 7.1 mile Road Race (which is quite hilly). Our member’s friend, mind you, had been training four months for this particular race, while our CFC member has been training here since October of 2010. Our CFC member finished a full 10 minutes ahead of his friend. Mind you, this was the longest he had ever run in his life.
And let’s not forget that at last year’s Warrior Dash, our group took on the mountain and did exceptionally well. There were large groups of organized running clubs and track teams in attendance, and based upon our placements within our age divisions, we were all within the top 10% of our age groups. If this is not irrefutable evidence of the effectiveness of CrossFit training, I don’t know what is.